with Robert Ferre

Chartres Cathedral and the
Origins of Gothic Architecture

July 19-25, 2004

Presenters: John James, Robert Ferre, Kent Schuette

The step from Romanesque to Gothic architecture was not just a matter of size or scope, but a complete transformation in concept and the possibilities of stone. It reflected the cultural influences of the 12th century and medieval France. Various inifluences of the origins of the current Gothic structure of Chartres Cathedral include:

Age of Faith: All knowledge was informed by a spiritual and religious context. The artisans who created the extraordinary statuary and stained glass at Chartres were motivated by devotion as much as artistic expression. The result is far beyond anything that could be accomplished today within a secular commercial context.

Scholasticism: This was an accumulation and appreciation of all previous learning and an attempt to infuse it with contemporary values. Thus, the cathedral is virtually an encyclopedia or a library, summarizing all of history, not just Christianity. Today people may be puzzled that the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral once contained a plaque portraying the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Or that the statuary includes Aristotle, Pythagorus, Donatus, and others. Perhaps the medival vision was broader than our modern view.

Sacred Geometry: Chartres Cathedral incorporates an ancient tradition which identifies number and proportion as the building blocks of Creation, stemming directly from the Mind of the Creator. Hence, they are sacred. All ancient monuments included these principles, including the Great Pyramid, Stonehenge, and others. Sacred geometry has little in common with modern mathematics. Indeed, when Chartres Cathedral was built, they were still using Roman numerals. Learning sacred geometry gives one a completely new perspective of ourselves, the universe, and how we relate to each other.

Political Stability: A rapport between the Pope and the Kings of France, in addition to relative peace, made unprotected and unfortified structures like the Gothic cathedrals possible. Previous impressive churches were monastic in nature, abbeys, built in remote locations. Gothic cathedrals were built in cities, where there was an emerging and influential middle class. The clergy at Chartres were considered secular, as they weren't members of a religious order. The cathedral was as much a political statement of power and influence as a monument to devotion and artistry.

Economic Prosperity: Due to technological improvements and inventions, agricultural productivity was expanding rapidly in the 12th century. The greatest wealth was still in wine and wheat. Chartres was located in Beauce, an grain-producing area of open plains similar to Iowa. The population was growing rapidly, providing sources of labor. The world was shrinking, due to increased travel and pilgrimage. In many ways, the 12th century was similar to the 20th century.

Archetectural Experimentation: While there are hypothetical esoteric theories than suggest the Knights Templar dug up a secret in Jerusalem, took it to Europe, and used their immense wealth to construct the Gothic cathedrals, that was not the case. Chartres Cathedral was preceeded by a century of experimentation, with an ogival arch here, a flying buttress there, a triforium somewhere else. It is an identifiable stone record of the various elements of the Gothic. it is as if they were the individual instruments being developed. At Chartres, for the first time, the orchestra was assembled and a symphony resulted. Later structures may have embellished the music, but they used the same orchestra.

Our week in Chartres together is not oriented for dry scholarship. Participants need only to come with an open and curious mind as to how these magnificent cathedrals came into existence. We will have access to tour closed areas of the cathedral, and will walk the labyrinth after closing hours. The town of Chartres itself is charming, giving an authentic experience of French life. Below is a brief description of our presenters.

John James: Having lived in Chartres and studied the cathedral in exquisite detail for some five years, John James wrote a series of books which have revolutionized the understanding of Gothic buildings and how they were constructed. He identified the different masons by their templates, stone sizes, geometric solutions, and other mannerisms. Accordingly, he made a series of drawings showing the year-by-year progress of the construction of the cathedral (a topic of great speculation amongst scholars). John James is now ini the midst of a 10-volume compendium describing in detail 1500 extant Gothic structures in the Paris Basin.

Robert Ferre: A full-time labyrinth maker who has constructed more than 500 copies of the Chartres labyrinth, Robert Ferre has visited Chartres 48 times over a span of 39 years. As director of One Heart Tours he has taken groups on pilgrimage to France since 1989. He lectures widely on labyrinths, sacred geometry, and Chartres Cathedral.

Kent Schuette: The head architect for the magnificent Cathedral Labyrinth and Sacred Garden in New Harmony, Indiana, Kent Schuette went to chartres and measured the labyrinth in person. he and his team then constructed a full-scale replica in granite, in a setting which reflects the dimensions of the nave of Chartres Cathedral. This is arguable the most beautiful labyrinth in the United states. Kent Schuette has used his interest in sacred geometry to study the original design for New Harmony, founded in 1814 by Harmonists who also included a labyrinth as part of their community. He is approaching retirement from Purdue University where he is adjunct professor of landscape architecture.


Cost: $1,395 per person, double occupancy. (Single supplement: $300)

The program includes five nights in Chartres plus one night in Paris. Airfare is not included. However, detailed instructions are provided for finding favorable airfare and how to get to Chartres. Lodging will be in Maison Saint Yves, a church-owned facility for pilgrims and conferences. A totally renovated 17th-century seminary, Maison Saint Yves is just steps from the catheral itself. The fee includes lodging, breakfast and lunch or dinner daily, all group activities, entry fees, access to areas not open to the public, a private labyrinth walk, tours and lectures. In Paris we will be staying in a three-star hotelin the Montparnasse area.

Another description of the tour, from our brochure, is available at Tours.


Send $300 (U.S. dollars) fully refundable deposit to Robert Ferré, payable to One Heart Tours. You may register by fax or email using a MasterCard or Visa (include expiration date). Full payment is due by May 1, 2004. After that date, refunds become more limited as the departure date approaches.


One Heart Tours
128 Slocum Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63119

Tel: (800) 873-9873
Fax: (888) 873-9873

Email: Robert

For more information about Chartres, see these links: